Regarded by its locals as the ‘center of the world’, Rome’s influence and rich history has helped to shape cultures, attitudes and values across the globe. Each April sees Rome celebrating its birthday – the perfect opportunity to honour the fascinating and iconic history of one of the world’s most incredible cities. After all, as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day…
Whilst there is evidence that the area of Rome has been occupied by humans in some way for over 5,000 years, the actual year that what we call Rome today was founded has varied between historians; however, the most common year given is 753 BC. Whilst the exact year may not be certain, ancient Romans were sure of the day that Rome was founded – 21st April, the day of the festival sacred to Pales, goddess of shepherds, on which date they celebrated the Par ilia.
Archaeological findings suggest that the area of Rome was inhabited by Latin settlers, and the city then grew from pastoral settlements around the Palatine Hill and the River Tiber. While Rome’s early history continues to be clarified by archaeologists and historians, much of Rome’s preferred history relies on mythology – particularly the myth of Romulus and Remus.
Romulus and Remus
In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus are the twin brothers whose story led to the founding of Rome. It is believed that the twins were the sons of Mars, the god of war, and descendants of the Trojan hero Aeneas. The brothers were abandoned next to the River Tiber at birth due to a prophecy that they would overthrow the current king, and the myth tells that they were nurtured by a she-wolf before eventually being taken in by a shepherd.
Once the twins became adults they decided to establish a city of their own – however, the pair argued and Romulus eventually killed Remus before going on to found the city of Rome and ruling as its first king. Roman tradition then tells that Rome was under the control of seven kings from its foundation to 509 BC, with the later years of that period being dominated by the Etruscans before the rise of the Roman Republic and the eventual Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire
By 44 BC Rome had become the largest city in the world, and the successes famous Julius Caesar and his adopted heir Augustus had led to the rise of the renowned Roman Empire, which at its peak stretched across almost the entirety of Europe, much of Asia and Africa.
This vast reach of power led to Roman ideas, values and architecture to be adopted across the Empire; one of the most widespread of these values being Christianity, which was introduced to Rome in the first century AD and was established as the official religion in 380. This conversion to Christianity made the Bishop of Rome (later known as the Pope) the senior religious figure in the Western Empire, and today Rome remains a deeply religious city, with the Vatican still regarded as the centre of Christianity.
Alongside religion, historical Rome is also known for its impressive and iconic art and architecture. One of the Roman Empire’s most commanding symbols is the Colosseum, the largest Amphitheatre ever built, and ancient Rome also saw the construction of the Pantheon, a former Roman temple and the Roman Forum, which was at the heart of Roman life for centuries.
Rome also thrived throughout the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical eras, with Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio, opulent aristocratic palaces such as Palazzo del Quirinale, the Fontana di Trevi and the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II all becoming iconic symbols of Rome’s culture.
Today, Rome is a city that continues to look to the future as much as it respects its incredible past. The years of la dolce vita cemented the city as a haven of style, luxury and classic Italian elegance, and this is a trait that modern Romans are happy to continue. Today, Rome remains a historic city with an exciting future - a city where you can find a forward-thinking fashion house just moments away from an ancient temple, expert chefs creating modern twists on classic cuisine and thought-provoking, modern art as well as classic Renaissance-era paintings.